locked
Read server backup on another computer RRS feed

  • Question

  • I was wondering if anyone could tell me a way to read a WHS 2011 server backup from another computer.  I backup to an external drive and I just think I would prefer to be able to do this or need to do this if I ever actually had a problem with my server.  I know when I plug the drive into a Win 7 computer the drive is recognized but does not seem to let me access the data.

    Also I like to store my backup drive off site where I work.  I just started using a second identical drive and yesterday simply removed my first drive and plugged the second one in and at least last night the backup did not work.  I did the setup of the new drive but is there a trick in using two drives for this purpose.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011 2:20 PM

All replies

  • The drive is managed by the Windows Server 2008 R2 backup engine, which uses a "differencing vhd" format for actual backup storage. You can mount the backup virtual disk on another Windows Server 2008 R2 computer, but I believe you only have access to the most recent backup. I'm not sure if you can mount it on Windows 7 or not.

    The "supported" way to view the data in the backup is to restore it somewhere, of course. While the Windows Home Server backup interface doesn't permit you to e.g. restore a single folder (nothing smaller than a share, IIRC), it's possible to use the GUI built into Windows Server 2008 R2 (present in Windows Home Server if you log in to the desktop) and restore in smaller increments, or to other locations.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Thursday, September 22, 2011 4:06 PM
  • The drive is managed by the Windows Server 2008 R2 backup engine, which uses a "differencing vhd" format for actual backup storage. You can mount the backup virtual disk on another Windows Server 2008 R2 computer, but I believe you only have access to the most recent backup. I'm not sure if you can mount it on Windows 7 or not.

    The "supported" way to view the data in the backup is to restore it somewhere, of course. While the Windows Home Server backup interface doesn't permit you to e.g. restore a single folder (nothing smaller than a share, IIRC), it's possible to use the GUI built into Windows Server 2008 R2 (present in Windows Home Server if you log in to the desktop) and restore in smaller increments, or to other locations.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)

    You can mount it on Windows 7, I tried it some time ago.
    I don't remember if it was only the most recent backup or not. But it mounted as a drive letter.

     


    WHS 2011 RTM up and running, v.1 gone to meet its maker...
    Thursday, September 22, 2011 4:56 PM
  • I am running Win 7 Enterprise and the WHS 2011 backup drive is recognized but I cannot access it.  The drive is a Seagate external with a USB 3 connector.  This is an example of why I hate this backup method and have lookingfor an alternative.  I don't understand the advantage of needing to get the server setup again before you can have access to files that were backed up if the computer crashed. Most home users only have one Windows server, if any.
    Thursday, September 22, 2011 5:58 PM
  • Most home users have no servers. :) A minority of the ones without have a desktop that does that duty, in a lightweight fashion.

    As for reading the backup, you will have to "mount" the .vhd file that's on the drive. This makes it look like another physical drive to the operating system. So no, you can't read the data directly; you need to use the capabilities of Windows 7 or Windows Server as an intermediary. This is absolutely no different from any other backup tool, all of which store backups in a proprietary, compressed format, and all of which which require software to allow you to access the files stored in the backup. I'm excluding tools which simply perform a file copy operation to "back files up" from this, obviously. If that's what you want, it's not terribly difficult to set something up on your own.

     


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Thursday, September 22, 2011 6:37 PM
  • Thanks Ken.  I was not familiar with .vhd files so I of course Googled the subject and now I love it.  I have to wonder how anyone is just supposed to know of this.  I never wanted to trust a program that my files were actually backed up.  This is the first time I have actually seen the backups and so now I am happy.  Why cannot Microsoft mention this or have an even simpler way of doing this via the WHS setup.  I am now happy. 

     

    Just yesterday I started having 2 seperate external USB drives to store one off site while the other is used for backup.  Are there steps for doing this.  Must the first one be officially removed before the second is used.  I simply removed the first and only one I had used and then attached the new one and went through steps for it to be used for backup and this morning saw a message that nothing had been backed up.  I just checked the backup report and at least the second time data was backed up hopefully this will continue working.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011 8:24 PM
  • You will love .vhd files less when you read my next paragraph. :)

    A limitation of the .vhd format as it exists today is that a .vhd file may not be larger than 2 TB. That means that a backup may not be larger than 2 TB. Windows Home Server will do some pruning of old backups, but if you have close to 2 TB of data, you should expect issues. This limitation isn't something the HSBS team can do much about; they have chosen (wisely) to use the backup engine from Windows Server 2008 R2 and pasted a wizard on top.

    There are things a knowedgeable user can do to make this limitation less of a problem, but they all involve the server desktop and configuring backup tasks manually. If you have a very large amount of data, though (more than 2 TB), probably very little changes from day to day. Assuming this to be the case, your best bet is to manually make copies of your static data to store off site, and only have Windows Home Server back up the things that change frequently, plus system state and the OS drive, to allow for bare metal restore in the event of a drive failure.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Friday, September 23, 2011 2:59 PM
  • My WHS 2011 box has three disks:

    1. The first one has three partitions: "System Reserved", C: (the OS), and D: (some server shares).
    2. The second disk is the E: drive which contains server shares and "Client Computer Backups".
    3. The third disk is for server backups.  Its "\WindowsImageBackup\<server name>" folder contains 24 file including four .vhd file - one for the "System Reserved" partition, and one each for C:, D:, and E: drives.  These files are more or less the size of the used space from the disk partitions they are from.

    All the other files in the "\WindowsImageBackup\<server name>" folder are very small, so I assume the .vhd files contain an initial full backup of the corresponding partition as well as all the incremental backups.  If that's true, there must be some way to view previous backup in the .vhd files since WHS can restore them.

    Any ideas how to view prior backups in the .vhd files?

    Friday, October 19, 2012 6:57 AM
  • A limitation of the .vhd format as it exists today is that a .vhd file may not be larger than 2 TB. That means that a backup may not be larger than 2 TB. Windows Home Server will do some pruning of old backups, but if you have close to 2 TB of data, you should expect issues. This limitation isn't something the HSBS team can do much about; they have chosen (wisely) to use the backup engine from Windows Server 2008 R2 and pasted a wizard on top.

    In my case, I limit Server Backup for use with the WHS system disk and all "business-critical" data on our server (which comes to less that 2Tb total).  For larger media shares, I use a separate strategy to keep this data synced to a second "stand-by" NAS on our network. 

    This may not be practical for everyone, but a 2Tb backup limit which is fine for business data is often insufficient for media-heavy home users, and I also like the option have an easily accessible copy of the data at hand for quick recovery.

    Although there is no Drive Extender or Storage Spaces in WHS 2011, if you are willing to sacrifice capacity and know your way around Windows, you can gain some resiliency by mirroring server disks using the Windows Server Disk Manager.

    Saturday, October 20, 2012 8:54 PM